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Ozzfest Special: Interview With Lacuna Coil Vocalist Cristina Scabbia & Guitarist Cristiano Migliore

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Saturday, September 25, 2004 @ 3:41 PM

From Italy to Ozzfest: Stingle

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I, Pagliacci.

I first got turned on to Lacuna Coil two years ago, when I heard Comalies. I would later see Lacuna Coil in New York at five different shows: touring by themselves, or opening for Anthrax and Type O Negative, among others. The last three shows I spent trying to track them down for an interview with KNAC. Their tour manager “Wolfgang” was quite elusive to say the least.

After much ado, following a show with Type O at L’Amour in Brooklyn, I got talking with the Type O tour manager, a very cool dude from LA who looks like the singer from Shadows Fall, and whose name escapes me now. He grew up on KNAC, and I got on to telling him about how I’d been hunting down Lacuna Coil. He pointed me their way, and I finally scored, in my somewhat inebriated condition, an off-the-cuff interview with Cristina and Andreas, the singers. They graciously answered my questions as I prattled on; and sat bemused before me atop road cases and amp cabinets waiting to be packed away.

Days later, after transposing a different interview, I changed tapes, and put the LC interview in, and soon found that my trusty piece-of-crap tape recorder was eating the cassette. This had never happened before (and would happen one time later before I ponied up for a new one); and I learned a hard lesson about cleaning the heads of recording device after repeated playback. It was lost…

Now, in 2004, I was finally able to sit down, briefly, with Lacuna Coil during Ozzfest. In the time I had gotten into them, so had a lot of other people. Enchanted by the warmth of their music, the heavy guitar and lilting voice of Cristina Scabbia, (not to mention her fiery Roman beauty), this band from Italy has broken through to America. While some stupidly compare them to Evanescence, Lacuna Coil has been around quite a bit longer. It ought to be the other way around. Also, Lacuna Coil rocks. As so many people have gotten hip to their sound, it’s no wonder that sales of Comalies pushed Lacuna Coil into the Billboard Top 100, marking the first time this has ever been achieved by a Century Media artist. Big news all around.

I lumbered onto their bus during Slipknot’s set. I spoke to both Cristina and Cristiano (“Cris”) separately, one after the other. Cristiano was watching Killer Klowns From Outer Space before and after the interview. It can’t be rock and roll all the time…

KNAC.COM: I know we’re pressed for time. If you would, just give me a little bit of insight as to how the tour is going for you so far. I know that, as a result of being out here, Comalies was the first Century Media record to break the Billboard Top 100. Do you want to talk a little bit about that, and what Ozzfest has been like for you?
CRIS: It’s been, for sure, great exposure for us. A lot of people got to see us that had probably never heard the name before. And it’s also good because we have a chance to play with bands that we didn’t know, or we just heard, like, a few songs. And we meet a lot of people, bands. It’s very good; it’s a good atmosphere. We meet a lot of people everyday, so that has been a great experience.

KNAC.COM: Who are some of the bands you’re seeing that you’re enjoying a lot, so far?
CRIS: I was looking forward to seeing Slipknot, of course. Big fan, and I never had a chance to see them before. Really surprised by God Forbid, I like them very much. Lamb of God, too. A lot of bands, actually.

KNAC.COM: What about the bands on the main stage?
CRIS: Of course, Sabbath and Priest have been my favorite bands since I was a kid. Also, to see the original lineups, with Sabbath, and more or less with Priest. Great, you know? Yeah. Also I really like Slayer. Black Label… Dimmu. I pretty much like all the bands who play there.

KNAC.COM: When you guys started out, when your sound started to evolve, there was some music, but very little overall, coming out of Europe that had this sound -- Theater of Tragedy, Tiamat, Moonspell and, of course, over here, Type O... Were any of these bands influences or contemporaries -- musical peers -- in any way for you?
CRIS: We worked with them, but they never were an influence to us, because we were doing something on our own at the same time. We listened to those bands, we liked them, but it never really affected much, our music. Of course, bands like Priest and Sabbath do it, for sure, as they invented much -- invented something. We never really tried to copy a particular style of a particular band. We try to write stuff that would actually speak to the music we want to play, you know?

KNAC.COM: What do you feel about comparisons to the American band, Evanescence?
CRIS: I don’t think we really sound a lot like each other, you know? It’s like, they sound more like Linkin Park with a female vocalist, you know? I think that our musical style, even if you don’t consider Cristina’s voice, is different. The only thing that we have in common is a female singer.

KNAC.COM: When you started out, as you started to write, did you consciously write lyrics in English? You have a couple of songs in Italian.
CRIS: Yeah, we always wrote in English because it’s easier to express yourself. Because if you try to write in Italian, the grammar is so complicated, you have to put like 300 words to say the same thing, you know? It’s like, when they asked us to write something Italian, we were like, “Ah, it’s never going to work, it’s going to suck.” We tried it, and it turned out to be one of the best songs we ever wrote. At least, we saw that from the reaction of the people in the crowd when we played it. So, yes, we didn’t expect it to be such a hit for our fans.

KNAC.COM: Given that Italy has such a rich musical history, it’s been a long time, that at least I can think of, that something has come out of Italy with as much impact as you’ve had in the last two years. Were there any Italian bands that you grew up around; was there a scene?
CRIS: Well, the problem with Italy is that there isn’t a really huge rock scene, because most of the music people listen to is, like, pop or traditional Italian music. It’s really hard for bands like us to get even signed to a record label, you know? They don’t care, because they know that’s it’s really not going to sell too much. So, the bands that really want to try something, rock, have to be able to reach past Italy to get to Century Media or Nuclear Blast. But those labels are not in Italy, so…

KNAC.COM: So, there’s no real encouragement?
CRIS: No. But there are a lot of good bands in Italy, though. We played with a lot of good bands though, that are actually worth listening to, some were definitely really good, maybe, technically even better than us. But it’s really hard, because labels really don’t care about promoting metal, or rock, because they know it’s really not going to sell. Even we don’t sell a lot in Italy -- we probably sell about seven thousand copies over there.

KNAC.COM: How would your sales compare to, say, Eros Ramazotti? (Who could possibly be described as “The Italian Michael Bolton”)
CRIS: AH! [Laughs] He sells millions of records! He is probably the Italian artist that sells the most.

KNAC.COM: I’ve seen you a whole bunch of times, all in New York City. Cristina has, or spoke then, from the stage and asked, “Is anybody here Italian?” which got huge audience responses. Of course that was in New York City, which has a tremendous Italian population. I didn’t notice it today. I will add that I noticed your banner, the logo behind you, is reminiscent of The Godfather, and you in fact, came out to the opening music from that film. What can you impart to people about Italy that is different from the American perception of Italians, which, for many of the people of the United States, may be their only idea of what is Italian?
CRIS: Yes! But, since we were born there, and we grew up there, and we were brought up with Italian culture, it’s hard to tell when you go somewhere else how this will effect the relationship with the people. I really don’t know; everything’s different. You know? Spaces are smaller; you can travel throughout the whole country in, maybe, twelve hours. Here, to travel across the States, it takes you maybe four or five days. But everyone seems really interested in us because we weren’t Americans: “Oh, they’re from Italy!” -- and everybody seems to be part Italian somehow!

KNAC.COM: [Laughs]
CRIS: You know? [Laughs] It was like that: “Ooh, wow! An Italian band! Let’s see what they can do!” and it’s been really unexpected for us to have this great success over here. Of course we weren’t trying to, but we never thought it could be this, this big.

KNAC.COM: Well, Comalies is a great record. I guess the question I want to know then, is: How are you going to top this? Have you started writing the next album yet?
CRIS: Hah-hah! Yeah, we have started to write songs. I think we have about ten songs almost totally done. But we of course still need to work together on the arrangements, and to finish all the lines, the lyrics as the last part. The problem is that being on tour for so long, we’ve never had a chance to sit down and write the stuff, because we really cannot work this way. We need to go home, relax and focus on writing some new stuff. When we will get all together and we try to see how we can fit all the different ideas together.

KNAC.COM: When you come off of Ozzfest, will you be going home to Italy? Will you take a long hiatus, or do you have to go right back into the studio after the holidays?
CRIS: We will take off through the holidays, and I think we will not be back until next year. April or May, unless something really big comes up, then we can really think about it. But we really want to work on the new album, because Comalies came out almost two years ago, so we’ve been playing these songs forever… we want to give ourselves some new stuff to do!

KNAC.COM: Cool, something to look forward to. Thanks, Chris!
CRIS: Thank you!

At this point, I move to the rear of the tour bus, past the bunks, past the kitchenette, to what passes for a lounge. Cristina Scabbia is there, freshly showered, her hair pulled back behind her head. She is wearing white linen pants and a soft black vest. Sleeveless and sexy, she is almost too stylish for a rock show, let alone the back of a bus. She is very lovely in person: quite petite, and sports a brilliant smile and wide brown eyes never leave you during the conversation…

KNAC.COM: Cristina, I feel like I’ve been chasing you around forever. I know you’re pressed for time, but thanks for doing this.
CRISTINA: Oh, it is my pleasure.

KNAC.COM: You just had a huge bump in sales which landed you on the Billboard charts, making it the first time a Century Media artist has graced the Top 100. After two years since the record came out, this has got to be an exciting time for you.
CRISTINA: Oh, yeah! Of course, it is. Of course it is. Especially, you know, coming from Europe; especially after two years from the release of the album, Comalies, is two years old, so that is another reason to be proud of it. This means that something is still fresh to the ears of the Americans. It’s just great: we love to tour here, we love the people, we like the atmosphere… of course we’re really happy about the results!

KNAC.COM: There’s a new version of Comalies that Century Media has released for Ozzfest…
CRISTINA: Yes… “Heaven’s A Lie,” “Swamped,” “Unspoken” and “Senzafine” are…

KNAC.COM: …acoustic versions of your better-known songs from the record, which bring a tremendous gravity to the vocals. Are you going to be doing some of this live?
CRISTINA: Actually, we did it once, when we were playing Philadelphia, we did a couple of songs acoustic, because it was the first place we played, ever, in America, so we just decided to give something special to the people that night, and we played “Unspoken” and “Swamped.”

KNAC.COM: Cristiano said you were working on some new material for 2005…
CRISTINA: Yes… oh, yes.

KNAC.COM: Have you started writing lyrics with Andreas yet?
CRISTINA: Not really, not really. Because we always like to get the music done and then to get inspiration from the music because we are totally convinced that the lyrics have to fit with the music. You know? It sounds stupid to have like, an aggressive song with… I don’t know, “love” lyrics or stuff like that. I really think they have to fit. So we’re not writing with the lyrics yet; we’re working on some ideas because we’re collecting stuff, we have a lot of riffs, and a lot of ideas in our mind. But we need to put everything together, that’s why we need to go back home, get a little bit of rest and be totally ready to work.

KNAC.COM: When I saw you in New York City, you had a line on stage, you asked the crowd, “Are there any Italians here?” which, of course got huge responses. What is the reaction on the road?
CRISTINA: Oh, yes. “I’m Italian!” A thousand people, and they’re really proud of being Italian, even if most of the time they cannot really speak [the language]. Because apparently their parents, some of them, when they were having a discussion, they didn’t speak Italian with them when they were little kids. But, there are a lot of people, especially from, originally from Sicily… I mean, we’re coming from Milano, which is up in the north, but there are a lot of people here that are Italian, or (descended) from Italy. Definitely we get it a lot.

KNAC.COM: Tell me about how being on Ozzfest has been for you overall. Any favorites? Are any of your “musical heroes” here?
CRISTINA: Well, I don’t have any heroes in music, because I like so many different kinds of music and so many different kinds of bands that it would be difficult to point my finger at one band and say, yes, this is my favorite one. I think that you can find something interesting in aggressive bands in the same way that you can find something interesting from mellow bands, you know? You can find something interesting in everything -- it’s a question of getting different feelings from the music. Music is a sensation and you cannot say that in your life you will have only one feeling, and that’s my opinion about the music. But there are so many bands here that I like…

KNAC.COM: You’re also the first Italian band to hit the charts here… I sort of asked Cris this: What is your opinion of Eros Ramazotti?
CRISTINA: [Laughs] Well, I don’t really like him.

KNAC.COM: You’re one of only two, I think it’s only two, females who are represented on the whole Ozzfest… you and the girl from Otep…
CRISTINA: Actually, there are three: there is a keyboardist from Bleeding Through.

KNAC.COM: What is the reaction… given the overwhelming disparity of the sexes?
CRISTINA: Oh, yeah… well it’s… but the fact is that I don’t care, because I think it’s pretty stupid to look at a performer or a member of a band, like, as a male or a female. You have to look at the performance, and you have to see if this person can really kick ass and really do the job. I’m pretty positive that I can sing well and that I can perform well. So I don’t really care if someone in the audience says, “Oh, she’s a chick… she can’t rock because she’s a female…” you know? That’s pretty stupid and I’m open-minded and if you can do your job, you have to look at yourself as a professional, and that’s what I am on stage. Never encountered a problem…

KNAC.COM: And living on a tour bus?
CRISTINA: [Laughs] It’s okay. It’s not like being home, but, however, you have your bunk and it’s really comfortable, so…

KNAC.COM: I guess it beats being in a van, huh?

KNAC.COM: I had read a while back in an interview, that when you starting the band, and up until some months before Comalies came out, that you were tending bar in Italy -- is that true?
CRISTINA: Yes! Sure. Actually I was like a normal bartender -- serving beers, nothing really different from the bars over here. Margaritas, caiparhinas…

KNAC.COM: Tip your bartenders… so it must feel terrific to have all this happen now. Your last show on Ozzfest is coming up on September 4th…
CRISTINA: Yes: and we’ll be back in Italy on the 5th!

KNAC.COM: What are you looking forward to doing as soon as you get home?
CRISTINA: Well… we’re going to take a little bit of a vacation. The thing is that I have a couple of photo sessions that, I think the 8th and the 10th I have to shoot for some covers in Germany and The U.K. and then I’m done and going to get some rest.

KNAC.COM: Excellent. On that note, I’ll take off, and look for you in another year.

As I exit the tour coach, the members of Lacuna Coil are saying goodbye, casually, absent-mindedly in their native tongue: it sounds so pleasant and so familiar, but adds an unexpected warmth to an afternoon at Ozzfest…


(Photos by Sefany Jones/ KNAC.COM)

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